Spiritual Auras: Jungle Venues in Birmingham and the West Midlands 1993-7

Venue Stories - From Backroom to Rave Room, from the Toilet Circuit to the Town Hall - Fraser Mann

Penelope Wickson [+-]
Art Historian
Dr Penelope Wickson (DJ Tina Irie) is a qualified teacher and Art Historian. Her work has appeared in the journals Nineteenth Century Gender Studies, Italian Studies and Textile History and she has given papers at major conferences organised by the National Gallery, the Courtauld History of Dress Association and the Association for Art History. Her interest in the intersection of global cultures is mirrored by her love of music. Growing up in the north of England in the late 1980s sparked a deep interest in underground house, hardcore and techno whilst her passion for jungle and drum & bass spans almost 30 years. In 1994, whilst studying History of Art and Italian at the University of Birmingham, she founded its first ever newspaper column to explore the genre. Immersed in labels such as Reinforced, V Recordings and Creative Source, her heart resides in the heady nights of Swerve, Quest and Metalheadz that defined the 1990s. She presents regular radio shows on Imperial Voice Radio, Energy 1058 and Kane FM - playing upfront and contemporary jungle and drum & bass that captures the spirit of the original sounds.


Whilst Caspar Melville’s It’s a London Thing and Martin James’ State of Bass represent some of the first scholarly explorations of the history of jungle and drum and bass, the focus on the capital highlights the longstanding marginalisation of Birmingham and the West Midlands within the narrative. This study aims to redress the balance by paying close attention to the role of three significant venues during the four-year period in which jungle emerged from breakbeat hardcore and gradually expanded into drum and bass alongside myriad sub-genres of both. The Institute and The Que Club in Birmingham and Palomas in Wolverhampton were all home to club nights that attracted the most prominent DJs and MCs as well as crowds from all over the country. All built in historicist styles during the 19th century, the three venues demonstrated a flamboyance that embodied the industrial midlands - styles considered now to be gaudy and unfashionable. Drawing on the dichotomy of striated and smooth space proposed by Deleuze and Guattari, the relationship between the design of the buildings, the sounds and experiences they facilitated and the prejudice the jungle community received during the mid 1990s - especially with regards to other forms of dance music, is also considered. The study is based upon the first-hand memories and stories of those who experienced such an extraordinary period as well as my own experience as a Junglist and a student at the University of Birmingham where I founded the first ever Jungle/DnB column in the University’s newspaper. At first hand, I experienced the divide between the Junglists of the city and members of the university who considered themselves to be aficionados of drum and bass as opposed to Jungle by avoiding the venues, events and people that formed the bedrock of the genre in the West Midlands.

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Wickson, Penelope. Spiritual Auras: Jungle Venues in Birmingham and the West Midlands 1993-7. Venue Stories - From Backroom to Rave Room, from the Toilet Circuit to the Town Hall. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. Feb 2023. ISBN 9781000000000. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=42698. Date accessed: 27 Oct 2021 doi: 10.1558/equinox.42698. Feb 2023

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